June 11 2011 03:46PM
While Sven Bartschi is a good target for the Flames in terms abilities, the truth is it's entirely possible he'll be picked by the time the 13 choice rolls around. The lanky Fin Joel Armia, however, lands right around the Flames in just about every draft llst I've seen so far.
At 6'3" and 190 pounds, the right winger from Pori, Finland already has NHL size, although he could probably stand to put a few more pounds on his frame. Armia was the youngest player on the SM-liiga Assat Pori this year at just 17-years old. but still managed 18 goals and 29 points in 48 games played. Only 22-year old Thomas Zaborsky scored more goals than Armia on Assat. Armia's 29 points was good for sixth on the club, although his PPG pace of 0.60 project to about 49 over 60 games (a full season in the Finnish Elite League) which made him the team leader by seven points.
Sm-liiga is a professional league like the SEL, meaning it's populated by established veteran hockey players, albeit guys of somewhat lesser quality than the Swedish equivalent. It is therefore notable when a teenager not only makes the club, but becomes a significant contributor. Gabriel Desjardins notes in his league equivalency studies that SM-liiga is about "half" the quality of the NHL (0.54) whereas the SEL is closer to three-quarters (0.78).
Obviously the quality of our information on Armia is limited to his counting numbers. While we can't determine his ES or PP splits or percentage of team offense, we can translate his PPG pace to an NHL rate using Desjardins ratio. (0.60 X 0.54) = 0.326 PPG. If we project that over a full 82 game season, we get a point total of about 27. That's not astounding, off course, but keep in mind this is a 17 year-old kid. Even top-three offensive type prospects usually top-out at 40 points for their NHLE.
That's the good stuff. Armia isn't without his warts however. Here's Corey Pronman on Armia, whom he ranked 15th overall:
Armia is very confident with the puck on his stick and he has good reason to be. He is able to execute above-average dekes with regularity and is very good in open ice. On more than occasion I've seen him execute a stick-handling move or a mid-distance pass through a tight space that left me saying "wow". He has an above-average shot with the ability to score from notable distances with the tool's accuracy and power. While the frame and his natural offensive tools are a great package, there are quite a few areas of concern with Armia. While he is a tall player, Armia still has a ways to fill out and loses a fair amount of battles that a man his size shouldn't.
His hockey sense is decent in regards to his positional play in all zones, however his decision-making with the puck is poor and he too often tries to force the big play with cross-seam passes, deking in dangerous locations, or will chuck the puck at the net with no traffic. His stride is good, but Armia's feet are heavy and the skating tool grades as fringe, but likely could get up a notch with attention to that area. Armia's intangibles and more specifically his consistency are also a question mark. He has one of the best upsides of any forward in the class, but there's a fair amount that he needs to work on.
Good stuff: big, soft hands, great puck skills, deadly shot.
Bad stuff: high risk decision making, poor skating, uneven consistency
Overall, Armia is a guy typicaly referred to as a "high risk" pick who could either turn into a top-six offensive threat, or wash-out completely due to some of his weaknesses. Personally, I think the fact that he's performing against adults already is a big point in his favor and speaks to a fairly high ceiling. Clearly some aspects of his game would have to improve if he is to become a legitimate NHLer down the road, but many of his deficiencies can likely be taught, whereas many of his strengths are more inherent. Perhaps the most alarming deficiency is his skating, although a lot of offensive forward prospects who were dubbed poor skaters in their draft year have established themselves as great players recently (Corey Perry being the most obvious example).
As such, I'd like the Flames to take a hard look at Armia if he's around at 13. CSS ranked Armia as the second best European skater behind Adam Larsson and one spot ahead of Mika Zibanejad. ISS had him 13th overall, a couple of spaces behind Bartschi and well back of Zibanejad, whom they have at 7th.